Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s final year in office promises to be busy across a number of fronts.
Marijuana-related sentencing reform would reasonably seem to be at the top of the to-do list for the state’s leading executive as he deals with 2018 and eyes the future.
Here is an obviously pressing need: adjusting the harsh sentences meted out to many Coloradans for pot-related offenses that were later decriminalized or are now no longer illegal.
By all indications, the governor is heavily focused upon a strategy aimed at promoting greater rationality into a system that has long allowed for punitive lock-up outcomes in cases involving even first-time and nonviolent offenders.
Legions of broad-based critics have railed against the so-called War on Drugs philosophy that for decades has routinely stressed punishment behind bars for defendants arguably better served by alternatives outcomes such as drug courts and counseling/treatment.
Hickenlooper recently cited in a Denver Post article some of the downsides in a policy thrust he clearly does not support. One relates to upkeep costs and the logistics relevant to inappropriately imprisoned individuals. The governor noted in an interview that there are simply too many low-level offenders behind bars.
“Right now, we have not enough room in our prisons,” he told reporters.
Material change could be on the way to rectify that challenge. In what is essentially a pilot initiative, the governor’s legal team is looking at the records of close to 40 persons locked up on marijuana offenses, determining whether some — or all — of those individuals might reasonably merit release. Again, it is notable that many of them are serving time for activities that are currently legal.
The Post cites the likelihood that pardon requests for select marijuana-linked crimes will increase as 2018 progresses, given Hickenlooper’s comment that “it is reasonable people should want that.”